A WOMAN accosted by a prowler just a mile from where a PCSO was murdered is too terrified to leave the house – and fears her killer will strike again.
She is said to have been approached by the man, who had parked up in a white transit van, as she walked along a quiet path in the village of Nonington, Kent, two weeks ago.
He offered the woman a cigarette and seemed “aggressive and suspicious” – but he fled after she shouted for help.
Julia James , 53, was discovered dead along a bridal path in neighbouring Snowdown on Tuesday afternoon.
Officers investigating her death have been made aware of the previous incident in Nonington.
A friend of the woman has now revealed her trauma at the experience – and said she fears he could strike again.
What we know so far:
- PCSO Julia James, 53, was found murdered in Snowdown, Kent, on Tuesday afternoon
- The mum-of-two is feared to have been bludgeoned to death after walking her dog with her killer on the loose
- Police are keeping an open mind over her murder and say they can't rule anything out at this stage
- Her son Patrick paid tribute to his mum in a heartbreaking Facebook post
- Locals have been told to remain vigilant and stay aware of their surroundings
She said: “She’s been left traumatised by the experience and hasn’t really left the house since it happened.
“It’s horrific. Her husband now has to take the dog for a walk because she’s terrified he will come back.
"It happened just two weeks ago barely a mile from where Julia was killed.
"There are clear similarities with this case and that of Julia’s in that both women were out alone in a remote country spot walking their dog.
"There is a murderer on the loose and a lot of people are scared."
A spokesman for Kent Police said: "This is a live investigation and we continue to carry out enquiries to establish the circumstances.
"We will not be commenting or speculating on any individual lines of enquiry at this time."
It comes after police today revealed Julia was bludgeoned to death.
Her killer remains at large with police keeping an "open mind" over why the mum-of-two was murdered.
Officer say they can't rule anything out at this stage – including whether there was a sexual motive behind the brutal killing.
Kent Police Deputy Chief Constable Tim Smith told BBC Radio Kent: "We are working very hard to identify a motive and we are working very hard to identify who may have committed this.
"We don't have any clear suspects at this time but we are working very hard to identify that."
DCC Smith added: "We are keeping a very open mind about the motive and until we can follow those different lines of inquiry which will help us to get close to the truth we may be able to confirm different parts.
"But at the moment the investigation team need to keep an open mind about why this has happened and who has committed this awful crime."
DCC Smith said he could not rule out if Julia, who worked for the police for 15 years, was attacked by a stranger.
He also said hundreds of officers were working on the investigation and following up a number of lines of inquiry.
Kent Police assistant chief constable Tom Richards issued a chilling warning to women and children urging them to be aware of their surroundings.
In a press conference today, he reiterated police have no clear motive or suspect for Julia's killing.
He said the force can't rule out if her killer was someone she came across in her work, a potential dog-napper or if there was a sexual motive.
Julia was not on duty at the time of her death or wearing uniform and had just popped out to walk the dog after working from home during the day.
And ACC Richards said all of her possessions were still with her body – with Jack Russell Toby unharmed.
He confirmed "devoted" and "passionate" Julia suffered from a blunt force trauma to the head but would not comment on a potential murder weapon.
The cop said: "We do not at this stage have any identified suspects, we are keeping all options open to us while we fully investigate the circumstances of this matter and try to understand fully what happened.
"We do not at this stage understand the motive."
He stressed Julia's death is being treated as an "isolated incident" that is not being linked to any other offences.
And he urged anyone who saw anything suspicious on Tuesday or Wednesday to come forward.
The officer also told locals to "be cautious" and stay aware of their surroundings as they hunt the murderer.
PCSOs patrolling the village, near Canterbury, have now told not to “veer from your normal route” when walking home.
Women living in the area say they are now scared to go out alone in the wake of Julia's murder.
One female neighbour said: “We’re all terrified. There’s a lot of dog walkers in the area.
“It’s horrific. We’re aware there’s a report of another woman having been followed.”
Mary Bosson, a cousin of the PCSO's mum, said: "It is worrying. We all walk our dogs around that area. I have a pregnant granddaughter and she walks her two dogs around there.
"She was there Monday and Tuesday, on her own. We don't know if it was random or what. We won't be doing it now until we find out."
Dorothy Morgan said: "It's so chilling. She was a really nice girl. I just can't believe it. We seldom walk about, but I've seen more people walking around in twos. Quite a lot of people have dogs here."
Another mum, who also lives nearby, said she won't walk her dog on the path where Julia was found.
"I used to go most days on my own but I just wouldn't do that now", she said.
"I'm also having to take my daughter to school, whereas normally she'd take the bus. I don't want her walking on her own, or waiting for it on her own, and I think most parents will probably be doing the same thing.
"There's obviously quite a big police presence so hopefully everything will be OK, and we have a strong community, which is nice."
Julia worked for Kent Police's domestic violence unit, where she is said to have been a "devoted" advocate for victims.
Cops from the force's serious crime directorate are examining whether her killer was in the area the previous day.
The crime scene is two miles across fields from where Lin Russell and her daughter Megan were bludgeoned to death in July 1996 in Chillenden.
Lin's older daughter Josie, then nine, survived.
Locals say Julia's brings vivid memories back of the horror killings 25 years ago.
The neighbour, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “It’s just too close to home.
"You associate it with what happened in Chillenden. It makes you think, have we got someone going around killing people in the woods?
“It’s such a wide remote area so presumably whoever has done this awful thing knew the area and knows all the routes out.
"It’s a very popular path and a beautiful woods full of wildlife. Then suddenly this shocking tragedy mars it.”
Julia had two children – a daughter who works for the police and a 23-year-old son. She also had a grandson.
Son Patrick Davis has taken to Facebook to say a heartbreaking goodbye to his beloved mum.
He wrote: “Mum, I cannot believe I’m even writing this.
"I love you to the moon and back.
"I’m in complete shock and I still don’t even think this is real, but I just hope wherever you may be that you’re happy and comfy because that’s all you deserve.
“You were the most amazing, loving, caring, mother anyone could ever ask for and the circumstances that surround this just don’t make sense.
“I appreciate everyone’s messaging and stuff but I’ve got to ask for people to let me and my family have some space at the moment.
“Fly high mum, I love you so much.”
Officers ramped up the investigation yesterday with cops seen carrying out meticulous fingertip searches in remote woodland and fields.
The search area has now been widened to a railway line that connects Snowdown and the village of Aylesham.
Her heartbroken colleagues left a touching note for tragic Julia on a floral tribute today.
It read: "PCSO Julia James. Your duty is done. Take it easy for now we will take it from here!
"Thinking of your family at this time. From the guys in blue xx".
Police haven't confirmed if Julia, who is thought to have worked in the domestic violence unit at Kent Police, was on duty at the time.
No arrests have been made and a post-mortem will be carried out to establish a cause of death.
Officers are keen to speak to anyone in the area on Monday or Tuesday who may have seen something unusual or suspicious.
Anyone with information should call 0800 0514526.
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